Alliances of the Bizarre: The shape of Zambian politics towards the 2016 elections
By E. Munshya, LLM, MBA, M.Div.
Nothing can get more politically bizarre than the sudden announcement that Elias Chipimo, Miles Sampa and Eric Chanda would form an electoral alliance to defeat the incumbent Patriotic Front (PF) government. This Sampa-Chipimo-Chanda (SCC) alliance is bizarre on so many levels.
- First, Elias Chipimo appears to be quite a level headed gentleman. But he has not had any traction at all since he formed his NAREP party a few years ago. The most damaging of his political life was when he came out with fewer votes than Eric Chanda in the 2015 presidential by-election. It is a serious indictment of Zambian politics that a reasonable aristocrat like Elias Chipimo would get such fewer votes than a little known Eric Chanda.
- Second, the SCC alliance does not quite make sense. What is this alliance based on? Miles Sampa just launched his party last month. Before he even has had the time to introduce his party to the country, he is already getting small parties into ambiguous alliances with him. When is he going to spread the message of his orange party?
- Third, the SCC alliance is also quite unusual in that all the three gentlemen are Bemba (or Bemba speaking). Alliances should make much more sense if they are trying to cross-pollinate some aspect of Zambian diversity. This SCC alliance falls far short of bringing any meaningful cross-pollination of our national politics. I do not therefore take the SCC alliance very seriously. It is going nowhere and adds nothing new to the national political dialogue.
Just this week though, United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema had very rave reviews of the SCC alliance. This is where I fail to understand the political reasoning of Mr. Hichilema. How can an SCC alliance be such a great thing to him? Unless of course, he has some hopes that this SCC will eventually join his UPND alliance at a later stage. In that case then, he is trying to oil the SCC alliance so that they could become useful to UPND’s battle for 50+1. On that basis it could be a smart move on his part. Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND needs to penetrate into the North-Muchinga-Luapula corridor if it is to dislodge the Patriotic Front from power, and getting the SCC alliance on board could be the first step in that direction.
President Edgar Lungu is reading the political mood very well. He seems to be quite open about it and I must commend him for that. To put it very bluntly: the Patriotic Front will lose the elections this year if their North-Muchinga-Luapula support wavers even slightly. To win the elections, the PF must do well in three areas: first, they must maintain a commanding lead in Lusaka and Copperbelt, second they must maintain the Luapula-North-Muchinga corridor and thirdly, they must get a steady inflow of votes in all the other areas of the country.
To achieve these three goals, the PF will need the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), particularly its president Nevers Mumba. A while ago, we wrote that the PF faces a Bemba revolt. It appears like the departure of Miles Sampa from the PF and subsequent formation of the SCC alliance would seriously challenge the PF’s domination of Bemba areas. Lungu must counter this coming assault by selecting a person like Nevers Mumba as his running mate, if the PF goes ahead with an alliance with the MMD. Nevers Mumba is not a powerhouse on his own. A running mate for President Lungu does not need to be a powerhouse. A running mate for President Lungu does not need to be an overwhelmingly popular person. President Lungu needs a running mate that will help him cover the three areas I have mentioned above.
- First, Nevers can easily help Lungu rally the Copperbelt and Lusaka if he uses the Patriotic Front substructure, which in actual fact was stolen from the MMD infrastructure.
- Second, Nevers would help cure Lungu’s Bemba problem. Very few would dare to admit that Lungu is facing a Bemba revolt. I must say it without hesitation: the Bembas within the PF are grumbling a lot at the moment. Nevers could help calm those grumblings. A Bemba running mate would almost certainly forestall the likely SCC invasion of a traditional PF stronghold.
- Third, Nevers as a running mate could help garner the little infrastructure of the MMD country wide that might ensure the Lungu-Mumba ticket pick up a few MMD die hard votes across the country including the Eastern Province. The PF must particularly canvass for any votes they can get from the East. The MMD still has a good political organisation and infrastructure that Lungu could tap into.
The above discussion might lead to the next important question. What should happen to Boma Inonge? I must put it very bluntly, Boma Inonge has done very well for the country. But even if she were to stand as an MP in her current constituency on the PF ticket, she would lose. The west had turned a page on the PF party, the UPND will dominate. Kaingu is also causing a lot of dust, but as a candidate on the PF ticket he will lose in the west. With a very dominant support in the south and the west, the UPND only needs a slight movement in the north to win the 2016 elections. It is that movement in the north that Lungu should worry about. But for now, there will be more alliances and rumours of alliances before the 50+1 finally gets to decide who wins on August 11, 2016.
Munshya, E. (2016). Alliances of the Bizarre: The shape of Zambian politics towards the 2016 elections. (www.eliasmunshya.org) (February 2016).
This article was featured in the Zambia Daily Nation Newspaper in January 2016. Munshya wa Munshya column is featured every week in one of Zambia’s leading private print newspaper.